This year, the first year of my new life as a self-employed food addict, I discovered Winter and Spring as new seasons, I admired them with curiosity as they unfolded their chilly and bright days in front of my eyes, I learned new rhythms and I made them mine.
With Summer is different, it’s a season I know, I used to live every second of it at home as a child, during the long school summer holidays. It’s reassuring to see how it all happens again this year in the same way as when I finally tucked away all my books and pulled out my bicycle and my striped shorts.
After years, I recognized the smell of early morning, when the birds still sing happily before the cicadas take their place.
I rediscovered the habit of closing doors and shutters as soon as it too hot outside, to reopen them in the evening, at the first hint of a breeze.
Yes, I am a lucky girl, even during the most sultry summer, here you can enjoy a light breath of wind in the evening. It brings the sea smell, or at least, I always smelled the sea with my imagination. Yesterday, I felt the balsamic note of the sea again, when in the still silence of the night I watered the orchard and the garden.
I felt like a child again.
I was watering the flowers against the wind to enjoy the cool tiny drops of water that the evening breeze will vaporize back on me. This is one of the best memories of the past summers, as beautiful as the afternoons spent in my Grandma’s big bed devouring books about other worlds, other times, other adventures.
Let’s celebrate the Summer Solstice
Despite the heat, which suddenly broke out, I feel bursting of energy, ideas and projects, just as a small child. I am already simmering at the idea of afternoons spent canning and filling up jars and bottles to face the next autumn and winter, I feel the time is ripe, just like the wheat, now shining in the evening of a lunar glow.
We celebrate Midsummer, the Summer Solstice, we celebrated fertility, abundance, success. It’s the time to seize the opportunity and enjoy the moment, now that the days are endless and that the light steals precious hours to the night. This is the season of the massive old oak, warm colours, lavender, chamomile, rosemary and sage. In the Celtic rites, they consumed fresh fruits and vegetables, ale, mead and fruit juices.
A ritual mead and peach cake
Today’s ritual mead and peach cake celebrates Midsummer, the days of light, abundance and harvest, and was inspired by the Celtic legends that have always fascinated me since the first fantasy books I’ve read, many summers ago, in that fresh bed in my grandmother’s house during one of those long summer afternoons of my childhood.
It’s a cake that would suit woods and forests, fairies and leprechauns, it’s crammed with fresh fruit, ripe peaches, lit by a drop of mead. Enjoy this beautiful summer, my friends!
The ingredients of the mead and peach cake
As you can see from the ingredients, it is a cake that apparently is not very sweet, it has only 110 grams of acacia honey. If you prefer, you can increase the amount of honey adding up to 60 grams, but if you use very ripe peaches I’d rather keep low the amount of honey, to appreciate the sweetness and juiciness of the fruit.
Mead, perhaps the world’s oldest fermented beverage, is made from honey and was known as the drink of the gods. You can replace it with sweet wine, vinsanto or even a splash of orange juice, but in this ritual cake mead earns its place of honour.
Serve a slice of cake with a fresh fruit juice – peach, apricot or pear would do. Add some ice and a splash of mead for the grown-ups!
Peach and mead cake
- 200 grams (3/4 cups) butter, room temperature
- 110 grams (1/3 cups) acacia honey
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons mead
- 200 grams (1 2/3 cups) farro flour, or all-purpose flour
- 10 grams (3/4 tbsp) baking powder
- 2 ripe peaches, peeled and diced
For the decoration
- 5 ripe peaches, peeled and cut in a half or wedges
- 20 grams (1 1/3 tbsp) butter
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- Seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean
- 1 tablespoon mead
- a few tablespoons sliced toasted almonds
- Beat the butter with the acacia honey. When they become soft and smooth, add the eggs, one at a time, waiting until the first one has been fully incorporated before adding the next.
- Pour in the mead and stir with a spatula to incorporate it.
- Sift the flour with the baking powder and gently fold it into the batter.
- In the end, add the diced peaches and place the dough in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for at least two hours. This will prevent the fruit from collapsing to the bottom of the cake, it works with every kind of fruit.
- After two hours, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F and line with a disc of parchment paper the bottom of a 24 cm round non-stick mould.
- Peel the remaining four peaches, cut them in half and place them in a pan with sugar, butter, vanilla seeds and mead. Cook on medium flame until the sugar turns into a thick golden caramel.
- Arrange the peaches on the bottom of the mould, cut-side down.
- Spoon the batter over the peaches, spread it evenly with a spatula and bake for about 35 minutes, until golden brown and firm.
- Remove the cake from the oven, immediately invert the cake onto a serving plate, and then sprinkle with sliced almonds.
- Let it cool before serving.
Do you have more ripe peaches? Here some ideas to use them!
- White Peaches and Lavender tart, from the 2011 Summer collection, add a floral touch to the season.
- Joy of baking peach tart, and you know it can’t go wrong.
- Something wholesome and delicious? Head to Heidi Swanson’s blog and you can be sure you’ll find something, like this plum and peach crisp.
More recipes with peaches from the blog archive
- Peach pie. The crust is so perfect that it does not steal the show to the juicy filling, generous with seasonal fruit, warmed by a pinch of spices. Once you get familiar with the making of the perfect pie crust you can have fun trying different fillings, varying them following the flowing of the seasons. My favourites? Strawberries and rhubarb, apples and blueberries, and peaches of course.
- Grilled peaches with ricotta. Serve the grilled stone fruit drizzled with a honey syrup flavoured with rosemary and vanilla. You can also add a scoop of your favourite gelato or a tablespoon of milky ricotta, simply dusted with cinnamon.
- Chilled peaches in wine. These peaches are dangerously good. It’s the ideal after-dinner dessert in summer when you don’t want to burden a perfect meal with a heavy dessert. You can enjoy the ripe peach slices along with their boozy orange flamed syrup, they are so easy to eat.